Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bailey Fountain

From a way down Flatbush Avenue it suggests that cloven flame which spoke with Dante in hell but by a nearer view, it is a man and a nude woman in bronze, and their plump child, eager for the Park, and it represents the beauty and stability of Brooklyn, and of human, family life. The man and wife stand back to back, in the classical posture of domestic sleep. It is a thoroughly vulgar and sincere piece of work, and once one gets beyond the esthete's sometimes myopic scorn, is the infallibly appropriate creation of the whole heart of Brooklyn. Michelangelo would have done much less well.
A description of Bailey Fountain, which stands in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, near the entrance to Prospect Park, from an essay by James Agee, "Brooklyn Is: Southeast of the Island: Travel Notes," rejected by Fortune magazine in 1939 and published by Esquire in 1968. In 2005 the essay was published as a slender hardcover by Fordham University Press. I noticed and bought it in a bookstore a few days ago.

The photograph is by Paul Kostro and is used by permission:
Closeup of Bailey Fountain (Flickr)
More photographs by Paul Kostro (Flickr)
According to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the male and female figures represent Wisdom and Felicity. Not a bad way to imagine a human partnership. For more on the history of Bailey Fountain:
Bailey Fountain (NYC Department of Parks and Recreation)